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#139: A Guide to Using Video in Your Online Teaching

#139: A Guide to Using Video in Your Online Teaching

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education

Video has become a staple of our everyday lives. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides an inside look at the best ways to use video in your online classroom.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m Bethanie Hansen. And I’m wondering, have you thought about what might happen if you were able to answer your students’ questions in the online class, the very moment they needed your answer?

If you’re teaching an asynchronous class, this can be a big challenge. It’s been said though, that it’s better to be a “guide on the side than a sage on the stage,” to lead your students most effectively in their learning. In the blended asynchronous online course, when you guide students through that LMS content with a personal connection. This can be both challenging for you to take the time and make the quality that you might want, but also, it’s going to be a benefit for your students.

You might approach your teaching, creating lecture style videos that talk about the subject and teach in a more traditional style. But today, we’re going to talk all about the way you can use video to be a guide on the side all the time for your students. Because they’re going to access those videos, anytime of day, and in all kinds of places throughout your online course.

This is such a benefit to you because it builds trust with your students. It allows you to take moments when you’re not under pressure to record a brief narrative explanation or interaction and post it wherever you would like in that online classroom. Today, we’re going to talk about online video for your online course, and a few tips for you to help make quality videos and just get started. We’re going to also tailor this to something specifically you’re thinking about right now. And that class you teach the most.

Consider Videos as a Recorded Conversation

So, I’d like to propose, first of all, not creating lecture-style videos alone. Now if you want to do that, that’s a great thing to do. We all love to hear someone teaching versus just reading it. But these videos I’m talking about today are much more personable. It’s like you’re there in person having a conversation with your students. And this is going to have a lot of power, and a lot of purpose.

There’s some research out there that suggests that using your videos for welcome videos, lecture content, discussion questions, instructions for assignments, and extra help in the areas of the content where students might have questions or tough topics are covered, all of these things are good.

Creating Videos Can Help Students Learn More and Enjoy the Class

In some research that I reviewed, students gave some feedback on instructor videos and 78% of them said that it helped them better understand the material when their instructor was there on video explaining it. 86% of the students said it contributed to their satisfaction in the course, that’s a pretty high number. 92.7% even said it helped them understand more about their instructor and feel more connected. And 91.5% of the students said they wanted more instructor generated videos.

Now you might not fancy yourself a videographer or a person who wants to be on a lot of video. But trust me, your students don’t need you to be perfect or a polished professional media person or personality. They really just want you just like you would show up in the classroom, with your stories, your comments, your explanations. It can increase your students’ grades to have videos where you’re there, in your presence and also talking about the course;  3.2% increase in grades were measured in the study I looked at. And there was also a 5.8% increase in the comments that the instructor was an effective teacher. And who wouldn’t want to be a more effective teacher? So, this is a really helpful thing, video.

Consider Where Students Can Benefit Most from Your Videos

It’s going to bring a lot of positive things; it’s going to bring a lot of positive results for you and for your students. So again, I’m going to list all those places you might consider adding video. Welcome video, which could go in your announcements or on the course homepage. Your weekly lecture, which is the lesson area of the course.

In discussion questions, you could have your video in the prompt, or you could have it in your posts, there are a lot of options there. Instructions for assignments, that could be in whatever section you introduce the assignment, and it could also be in the announcements where you refer to the assignment. And, as needed for complex topics, which could be in all areas of your course.

Now I’m not suggesting you saturate the course. At first just try a few places and see what happens. We’re going to cover how to create explainer videos or interesting videos of various kinds.

There are some examples I can talk about, and then also how to consider where you might put those videos in your course. And what you’re going to look at to decide, are they working for you, are they getting you the results with your students that you’re hoping to see.

Try A Few Tips for Strong Video Creation

The first thing I’d like to suggest is what a video must be. And all of us come to this idea with different assumptions and different understandings. But a video can be short and concise, it does not have to be five or 10 minutes. In fact, we lose our students’ attention spans when we have our videos too long.

A good video is short and concise, and it describes something or tells what it is, what it isn’t and how to do it, or why it’s important. It can be simple or complex.

It can be on a variety of platforms. In fact, I saw a session at a recent conference, that was about making TikTok videos, that’s not something I’ve ever considered. I haven’t even been on the platform TikTok. But if you have, you can see why it might be interesting to students to have a short Tiktok video. You can use TechSmith, Snagit, or Camtasia, or Canva, or Kaltura. There are a lot of things you can use to make your video.

All you need is some kind of program on your computer with a camera, and a video capacity or a cell phone that records video and audio. And it can be with or without animation or captions or headings or graphics or whatever you’d like to include. Now, when you’re including a video in an online course, of course, we need to think about compliance for all kinds of learners. And captions are important to include. But the initial video recording software may or may not have captioning capacity; there are a lot of ways to get captions added after the fact. So don’t let that hold you back.

Try It Out for Your Own Course

Now I want you to think about one specific situation. Think about one assignment on which your students struggle the most in that class you teach the most often. When you think about this assignment, what’s the main objective? What are the typical challenges and problems?

What is needed most for students to do well on that assignment? Now, we’re not just talking about formatting or APA or MLA or Chicago citation style. What I’m talking about is, what do they need to be able to talk about, write about, demonstrate, show knowledge around? What is really needed from your students in that space? And what actions do students need to take to do a great job?

As you’re thinking about this, I’ll suggest three things you can do to get their attention, keep their attention and call them to act in some way. That first area, getting their attention. In the video, you’re going to think about what is most difficult for them?

In media, we call that pain points. What do they really struggle with? If they were to write a question in the question section of your class to you, what would they be telling you or asking you?

What do you notice when you’re grading their papers or their assignments? What typical problems do they face? And what might they miss, that maybe it’s even a pet peeve you have of that assignment or that topic? What is it that students routinely struggle with?

At the very beginning of your video, get their attention by talking about it. Let them know directly, just talk to them in a conversational manner. And let them know. An example might be something like this, “Hey, I’ve noticed a lot of my students writing great things about the music they’re listening to. And they’re not using the music terms we teach in our class. So, it’s a big problem on the essay due Friday, when you’re writing it, to not use the music terminology. That’s one of the areas we’re trying to master in this class. So, I’m going to coach you today on this short video to help you use music terms more appropriately in your writing.”

Now, that’s my way of getting their attention. What’s your way?

Think about that assignment you’re worried about, and discover what you can say to them to get their attention. And you want to do this in your own personality style. My personality, I like to be a little up and down with my dynamics, my volume and my energy. And I really like to get excited about things. You can be different than this. You could be more focused; you can be more serious. You can be more consistent across your tone and your dynamics. Whatever is normal for you in daily conversation, that’s what you should do to get their attention in the video. Don’t try to be someone else, or pretend to be someone you’re not. Be natural.

Secondly, keep their attention. One of the ways to keep their attention is to build trust and credibility with your students in the video. You do this by talking about specific details, mentioning specific things that you know, as an expert in that academic area. Tell them how you’re going to help them meet the goal in the video and what happens when students submit their work without watching the video, what the consequences are, if they’re not solving this problem. And that could be something like they’re gonna miss an important piece of learning that’s part of the class. They’re not going to be able to talk about the subject matter intelligently, they’re not going to be able to demonstrate the work they’ve put in, something like that.

And lastly, in your video, call them to action, tell them what they can do. Now that they’ve watched this video, tell them what to do next. Give them some specific action they can do right now on that assignment or that topic, or whatever it is you focused on. Give them some specific details of when to do it and how to do it. So, for example, if the assignment’s due on the weekend, you can tell them, “Even if you’re not doing the assignment right now, take five minutes to stop and write down your ideas in preparation for that assignment.” Give them some details to wrap up whatever it is you’re talking about, and a sense of urgency like now’s the time to put the effort in. To get that done.

I really encourage this framework of three pieces and three major details in your video. We don’t want to overwhelm students and we want to keep it short. Adapt your assignments to the needs of your unique learners. As you’re talking about it in that video, if it’s about an assignment, you can do that by chunking the content into specific topics.

And these might even be separate videos. In my case, maybe I’m going to make a short video about how to use music terminology in the video. And maybe I’m going to make another short video about how to format and turn in the assignment, and those can be separate.

You might also focus on the course objectives and learning objectives, and tie everything you’re talking about to why they need to do it; especially adult learners need to know why so they can engage properly and really value what you’re asking them to do.

In any video, use everyday language, I would suggest eighth grade language, avoiding jargon as much as possible, unless you have academic terms you’re focusing on. In that case, define your academic terms, and then use them regularly and refer back to them.

And one way to make a great video without having to read a script and sound really planned and not conversational, one way is to build a bubble map. Just write it out with a focus, some key points and a few details. This will help you avoid word for word reading on your videos and help you be a little more natural and sound like yourself. Your students will like that, and they’ll engage more, too.

Keep your videos short. I recommend either a one-minute video, a two-minute video, or on the longer side the five-to-seven-minute video. And you need some captions before you post it in your course. You can investigate your captioning possibilities in the program you decide to use. You can also look in the LMS; a lot of learning management systems now have caption possibilities when you upload a video. And you could also talk to your classroom support at your institution to ask for help.

And think about your background. Always have a clean background. If you can’t have a clean background, consider putting up a sheet or a green screen behind you. Or at the very least, you could just go into Zoom and use the blur setting and record your video right there with a blurry background.

Have some good lighting, where you have your face lit pretty well and excellent sound quality. Now you don’t have to go out and buy a new microphone, most cell phones have great sound quality. You want clean audio that doesn’t have noises going on in the background. If you have a family member that’s making dinner, that might not be the best time to make your video. If you have a barking dog, take the dog outside, whatever it takes to get those noises reduced. They’ll be able to hear your voice better on the video and the quality will improve a lot.

Now think about where you’re going to place the video, you could put them in the spot where your students most likely have challenges with their assignment. Think about those places they’re going to be when they’re studying, and when they’re in the middle of that work. As you’re thinking about where you want to put your videos, remember that students really do have places they most often visit in your course. And they need some help at certain places as well. What are the typical student gaps and learning patterns in your online class? And where do these emerge in the course content? This might be the best place to put your videos, whatever you’re going to focus on.

Now lastly, there’s some data you might want to use to determine whether your videos are useful. You could put the videos in any place you want to, and if there’s a way to measure click rates or the amount of content students have viewed, you’ll be able to know if students are actually consuming your video content or viewing your videos at all.

One thing you could look at for a general understanding of how students are consuming your videos would be end of course surveys. An end of course survey is not a direct measure, but students might write some comments about your videos to let you know whether they enjoyed them, whether they found them useful, and whether they liked them.

You can take a look at your average assignment grades from before you started using videos to after, you can also look at the average course grades your students are achieving to see if the content you’re posting is helping them to perform better in the course and on the assignments.

There is another metric that we use in our university called UFWI rates, and this will be drops, unsatisfactory grades earned, like D’s and F’s, withdrawals and incompletes. If you have that kind of data, you can take a look at before you started using the videos and then after, and do some comparisons.

You can of course also look at the percentage of the content viewed or completed. And you can send informal surveys to ask students, what are they getting out of these videos? Are they helpful? And do they have any suggestions for additional videos?

If you’re going to use an external video platform like Vimeo, there’s additional statistics outside your LMS that could be used. And then if there’s another way to measure the watch time, like if they actually watched the entire video, then you’ll know not only did you get their attention, but did you keep their attention long enough for them to watch the entire thing?

As I wrap up this podcast with you today, I just want to encourage you to view video as a personalized approach to talk like you’re having a conversation with individual students. Just use your natural speaking pattern and be yourself. If you make an error, finish the video and share it anyway. Students love to see you as a human being, not something perfect off a shelf. Try some public speaking tips for clear messages like getting their attention, speaking to pain points, keeping their attention by sharing trust and credibility in there. And also giving them some direct actions, they can take at the end of the video. Remember to avoid perfection, aim for basic bare minimum videos.

They don’t have to be stellar or incredibly perfect. B-minus level work on your part is enough. Students will love it and they’ll love seeing you in these videos.

And lastly, take a look at your own content and decide does it actually look and sound like you? Does it seem authentic and real? If the answer is yes, chances are your videos are going to be wonderful to use with your students. I hope you’ll try some of these strategies and give it a real good effort to add some video content throughout your courses. And also, just try short, relaxed, simple videos. They don’t have to be very sophisticated at all just you talking to your students with your real personality and your real presence showing up. I hope that you’ll enjoy doing that and look forward to hearing back from some of our listeners using the form at BethanieHansen.com/request to share how this is working for you. Best wishes in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit BethanieHansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#133: Improving Student Engagement Using Metrics and Data

#133: Improving Student Engagement Using Metrics and Data

This content initially appeared at APUEdge.com. 

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Student engagement is a critical part of learning. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses how to improve student engagement in the online classroom using available metrics and data. Learn how educators can use that information to adjust assignments to help improve student engagement.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m here to talk with you a little bit about student engagement in online education. The word “engagement” is commonly known when you’re in love with someone, you’re thinking about marrying them. And engagement means you’re connected; you have a goal of doing something together. It also means maybe a military encounter between two different forces.

Now, something that engages people online is sort of along those lines: We’re coming together, we’re interacting, we have plans of doing something together, and we want it to be meaningful. The online education definition of engagement isn’t really the formal agreement to get married, or just an arrangement to do something, or go somewhere at a certain time. It’s not even a battle plan. Really, engagement in online education is about the ways in which students and faculty members engage with—or interact with—the content, each other, and the ideas.

There can be student engagement with the textbook, the videos that you put in your online class. There can be student engagement with each other; so, there’s some kind of dialogue or maybe there’s even live chat happening or live video happening.

There could be student-to-faculty engagement, or faculty to student. So, we’ve got messaging, we’ve got discussion areas, we’ve got live video or live chat. All of these different things fall into the category of engagement in online education. Engagement really is kind of this buzzword that we use a lot in online education because we need some way of talking about people showing up.

In a live class, in a face-to-face setting, you can walk into the room and see people there. You can also look at the gradebook and see whether students have submitted work, what their scoring is. You can find out how often or how much the faculty member has lectured or taught in that class. And all of those would be live engagement in a face-to-face setting.

Using Metrics and Data to Assess Student Engagement

Online education is a little bit different because we can look at metrics, we can actually look at login data, we can look at the number of times people have accessed particular content. We can look at how many times, how frequently, and how substantially they have posted in that discussion forum. All of those things help us to know about the engagement in online learning.

Now, in online learning, student engagement is all about figuring out what’s working, whether people are learning, and whether they’re really being taught and transformed in that experience. There are some kinds of engagement statistics online educators should know about. And if you’re teaching online right now, these could be very interesting to take a look at. On the very basic level, something in your learning management system will track or measure the days and the length of time that your students have logged into the platform.

If they’re going to read things offline, like if they have a physical textbook, of course, you can’t track that, you don’t know exactly how much time they’re spending in that content. But you can see when they’re in the classroom, how many times they’ve clicked into the classroom, during the week, and how many minutes they have spent.

Some learning management systems will also let you know which parts of the content students have accessed. So, maybe you can see, did they open the lesson? Did they open the test? Did they go into a quiz? Did they go into the discussion? Did they reply first and then post that initial response or post the initial response and then come back? A lot of this information, as an online educator, helps you get a sense of where your students really are spending their time, and how engaged they are in the class itself.

As you look at these trends of students clicking in and spending time, you can get a sense for what’s working, what kind of content you’ve put into that class, and whether or not something might need to be modified. Or maybe there needs to be more material added or too much material.

Looking at those on a very basic level just helps you understand the quality of the course and the quality of your teaching at kind of at a basic level. Now, as students start to engage in the discussion or interact in the discussion space, reading what they’ve written, you can also see things like what they’re understanding, the degree to which they can use some of the terms in the course, you can notice those things in the discussion. And notice how they’re using the words and start to know whether or not they’re really understanding the concepts.

How as this helps you? As an online faculty member, you can look at what students have posted in that discussion and start to ask a lot of questions. You can give some additional guidance or examples. And if you really participate throughout the week and read what they’re writing, they’ll come back, and they’ll respond to you again and again.

So, it helps to notice the real time or asynchronous, somewhat real-time engagement, throughout the week and see what’s happening in that discussion and be part of it and respond to it and interact with it. This will help students engage with each other a lot more, engage with the content more, and engage with you. And they’ll even get to know you a little bit, which will help them to trust you, and feel confident turning in those assignments.

How Understanding Engagement Levels Can Help with Course Design

Now, another thing that you can do to look at engagement in an online course, is to look at the way they’re filling out their assignments and submitting them. Sometimes you’ll get a student who really is off the mark on their assignment. And then looking at that first type of engagement, just how much they’re in the course, what they’re accessing, what they’re reading, you can kind of tell, have they gone through the parts of the course where they should have learned that? Have they spent the time there?

Some students will just misinterpret instructions and some will find helpful things on the internet, and just scoop those up and translate them into their assignments without really processing them. So, it’s helpful to notice the pattern of how they participated in the class, and then what’s going on in their assignments.

Some of the engagement in assignments will give you a lot of insight about what could be altered in your course. And also, what’s working in your course. I know one of my approaches in a class was to really zero in on the academic vocabulary. So, as I was teaching the students, I teach music appreciation, so as I’m teaching them the music terms, I’m looking for the way they use those terms in that discussion. And then the feedback I’m giving them is specifically about the kind of way they’re using the terms. How they’re using them in a sentence, what they’re describing in the music, whether it’s true, whether it’s accurate, whether they’re using those terms knowingly or just kind of throwing them all into a sentence together without any examples.

So, as I look at assignments, I also look at those terms and how they’ve engaged with the concepts. Are they able to demonstrate what they know? Are they able to talk about it in an intelligent or informed way? Online student engagement can be demonstrated in a lot of different ways. There are indicators in the quality of their responses, the frequency of their responses, and their access to the course. And, also, the depth of cognitive presence that they’re demonstrating.

Whatever metrics are available for you in your learning management system, I encourage you to take a look at those and to review them and determine which of these metrics helps you to fully understand what students are actually doing in the class, and which seem related to their performance on the actual assignments and in the discussions.

Once you’ve done that, the next place you can look to see after the fact how students have engaged or how they experienced this, is in their end-of-course evaluations. That little bit of data might have some free response answers. I know in my case, I used to use end-of-course survey data to evaluate my own teaching. And sometimes students would give me suggestions about modifying an assignment, or comments about whether or not they liked particular assignments. And I would look at those scores and comments, and then look at my class and find interesting and creative ways to make modifications for future sections.

Over time, that allowed me to create a group project. And as that group project played out, session after session, I would change little things about it based on student feedback, to see them engage even more and engage better and interact with each other better. For example, their end-of-course survey comments prompted me to intentionally design the groups in certain ways.

I would choose to make sure there was someone in the group that knew something about music coming into it, so they could kind of support the others, and that there was a diversity of student voices represented. In my university, there are a lot of military students and not as many civilian students. And so, I would kind of group those accordingly. I would have a little mixture in each group so we had some diversity of thought and diversity of experiences, so they could also learn from each other.

I also tried this with random groupings. And I got a lot of feedback from students about that, too. It seemed like the intentional grouping was the way to go. So, noticing their feedback, and then looking in on how they actually participated in the group project was a really helpful way to modify what I was doing as the faculty member.

In your own work, I encourage you to look at end-of-course survey feedback if you have that available. If you don’t, get those responses and if the institution you work at does survey students, perhaps there’s someone you can ask, maybe an assessment department or a data department that can share it with you. Your end-of-course survey feedback is going to give you a lot of insight into the way students engage and also what they loved and what they learned from, and what they didn’t love and didn’t learn from in your class.

All of these different pieces of data, the logins, the performance on assessments, just the observations in the discussion space, and the way they use terminology, and also your end-of-course surveys, all of these are data points for you as a faculty member, to help you refine your teaching and understand your students even better and connect to them better.

And lastly, I want to just encourage you to add a few metacognitive questions throughout your course that help you gather even more insights from your students. One that I really like to use is just a question of “how does this apply to your life or work right now? How might it apply to your life or work in the future?” It’s a fairly generic question but it can yield a lot of insight where students can find ways to connect with their learning right now with what they’re doing today or will do in the future. That can really help students engage more fully more deeply in the content and find connections to what they want to do or are doing.

Perhaps you have some ideas about ways to enhance student engagement, ways you can look at metrics to see what it is, or ways that you might measure it. I’d love to hear from you. Stop by my website, BethanieHansen.com/request, and let us know what’s working for you, what you’ve tried, what we should add to this list of student engagement information. And I hope that you’ll try something new in terms of looking around and seeing what students are doing, and how they’re interacting. Maybe a new space you haven’t explored like a piece of data, or revisit those end-of-course surveys. Thank you for considering student engagement with me today here on the Online Teaching Lounge. I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#124: 7 Quick Tips for Using Video and Multimedia in Online Teaching

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

In this week’s episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses best practices and quick tips for adding video or other multimedia assets to the online classroom to enhance student learning.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining me today. We’re going to be talking about seven tips to use video and multimedia in your online teaching. I love this topic because anything that includes multimedia or video makes that whole class so much more engaging for your students.

These seven tips I’m going to give you today will be:

  1. Personalize it.
  2. Make it evergreen.
  3. Keep it short.
  4. Focus on one topic or concept in each asset.
  5. Show what to do.
  6. Make it accessible.
  7. Streamline your process.

Now before I dive into these seven quick tips, I’d like to define one word that I’m going to use a lot today. And that is the word asset. An asset is anything that you’re going to include in your online teaching that could be a chunk of information or a resource. So, an asset could be a small video segment, it could be a PDF, it could be a worksheet. It could be a tool, an interactive element, any of those sorts of things. An asset is that individual piece.

Personalize It.

And the first tip I’d like to share with you today is to personalize it. Your students are looking for your presence throughout that class, and they really want to know you. They want to know who’s teaching them. They want to trust you. And they want to feel like they’re part of your class. So, if you personalize your assets, it’s wonderful to see you in those.

If it’s a video, record yourself. Don’t worry about perfection. It doesn’t have to be overly professional and perfect. Keep it conversational and friendly.

If you’re on camera, make your appearance inviting and think about your background. For example, if your office is in your bedroom, don’t film yourself in front of a messy, unmade bed with laundry everywhere. Check the background and clean it up. You could always use Zoom with a fuzzy background and that’s going to make it all better.

And, of course, when you’re being filmed or when you’re on video or audio, speak clearly, use simple language. If you use any jargon, idioms or acronyms, be sure to explain those.

Use good lighting and a microphone that produces high quality audio and limit distractions. Now a lot of devices you might use today already do these things. Even a good smartphone will give you great audio for something like a video. So, consider that it doesn’t have to be super expensive, and you don’t have to run out and buy the latest Blue Yeti microphone. But you can try to improve these over time, if you do want to upgrade your audio or your video.

If it’s a screencast, include your image on screen as you’re narrating or talking to your students, or your narrated voice at least to guide your students. And if you include your own thoughts and opinions on the topic that you’re teaching about, make it clear what is part of the curriculum, and what is part of your own thinking. This is especially important to make it obvious when students need to think for themselves about a topic and also when students need to think for themselves on a topic, and when they also need to be able to critically think so they can differentiate between what’s just your opinion and what is really essential.

Make it Evergreen.

This word evergreen just means what it sounds like. It needs to last. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making a video that you want to include as part of your lesson content. Unless it’s a weekly announcement you’re only going to use once, don’t talk about today’s date, or the time of year. Create it in a way that allows you to reuse it the next time you teach this class. This will save you time and effort.

Be sure to include whatever details and context you need to keep it relevant in the upcoming sections of the class so that even if you change out another part of the course, that content is standalone and is complete.

Provide transcripts and captions. When you’re making a video, you want to include this as part of your process so you avoid having to do more work and add it later.

There are a lot of tools out there and services that provide fairly accurate captions. Now, you can get these in zoom Kaltura on YouTube and a lot of other tools. You’ll want to check the transcripting or the captioning to do some minor editing, though, because it’s not always perfect. And we would hate for students to completely misunderstand just because we didn’t check those captions and clean them up.

Keep it Short.

Keep it short, especially if you’re creating something on video, five to seven minutes total per segment is the maximum. Some people out there will tell you go ahead and make a video up to 10 minutes long. That really is pushing the envelope here for a student’s attention span. It’s easy to update and revise a chunk of video later. If you keep the segments five to seven minutes or fewer.

You can also maintain your students’ attention better, and you give them time to process the information from one piece of content to the next. This is a really good thing when you have working adults in your class. If you have short five-to-seven-minute segments, they can watch one video on their lunch break, they can fit another video in on their afternoon break.

Whatever it is, they’re going to be able to get through this content better when it’s in smaller segments. And they’ll be able to learn the content that way. So, think about student attention span and also that maximum time per segment.

Focus on One Topic or Concept in Each Asset.

If you put just one topic or concept in each asset, this gives your students better choice as to where they want to start. They can pick and choose from the assets you give them. And they can go in an order that makes sense to them. It also gives them the chance to view in smaller bits of time, as I previously mentioned, like a lunch break or an afternoon break whatever they have available.

And, of course, it’s going to be more comprehensible when it’s just one topic or one concept. If you really need to give your students an overview of how those concepts fit together, that could be its own asset, its own standalone piece that sort of weaves the elements together. So, think about how you can chunk the content and break it down into these different assets you might create.

Show What to Do.

Show what to do, both as content and as introduction to any multimedia that you’re going to use. You can share your screen, there is a lot of screen casting software out there that makes this a lot easier. Screencastify.com is just one of many. I like to use Kaltura. But you might have your own favorite.

Keep slides light and limit the text. If you have a PowerPoint or a slide deck of any kind, here are a few tips to make it even better, so you can show what to do in a way that makes it simple and comprehensible for your students:

Use high contrast between colors on any slides. Keep the font easy to read with simple fonts that have consistent thickness all throughout the lettering. Make the text big enough to easily read. If you include any motion and animation that is necessary for your topic, explain it and use it. But if it’s unnecessary for actually understanding the content, just avoid it. Fancy slide transitions are not helpful. Include images, graphics, illustrations or animations with descriptions for accessibility.

Learn how to make your PowerPoint presentations accessible using these practices as you build out the slides. Be sure to check out the transcript of this podcast, because I have a lot of links to websites that are going to help you improve your accessibility in presentations and other types of media you’re going to include.

Make it Accessible.

If you develop a solution that meets the needs of all users with and without disabilities, then you’re doing something we call Universal Design. And creating accessible assets as part of your process is a great way to go. There are a lot of tools available online to help you with this.

There’s a website called Section508.gov, which is a great place to start. If you’re using documents, PDFs, presentations and spreadsheets, there are a lot of tips, tools and strategies available to guide you online.

If you have images as part of your assets, check the alternative text decision tree. It’s available at W3.org. And it helps you to understand what kind of alternative text you might need for decorative images, functional images and informative images. Always think about this when you’re including some kind of picture or drawing or something like that to illustrate in your classroom.

Now if you’re using diagrams, think about how that content can be a screen reader friendly. This can be something we overlook, and we need to pay attention to it when we include interactive or media elements. I’ve got a great example from a website linked in the transcript notes from this podcast, so check it out.

And in video or interactive media, if you have any text displayed in the video, and if it’s necessary to understand the video, be sure to describe that text for those who are visually impaired and also used captions and transcripts to support learners.

Lastly, there are a lot of tools online that will help you test your videos and media assets for accessibility. I’ve got a link to one of those resources in the podcast transcript. So, take a look.

Streamline Your Process.

Whenever you’re creating videos, audio content slides, or any kind of interactive media, keep track of your process. Make it a system that you can easily repeat and find ways to accomplish many of those steps at one time.

One example of this might be to have video options that automatically provide captions. Or you could just write a script for yourself upfront and use that script to record the video. It could even be an outline that you flesh out afterwards.

When you streamline and simplify the process you’re using, you make it a lot easier to do this in the future. And if it’s too complicated and takes too much time, you’re not going to want to repeat it. But adding these kinds of elements into your online classroom enriches the learning experience for everyone. And students really enjoy seeing and understanding the content better when you illustrate it, you show a video about it, you explain it in audio, and all of that. It’s worth doing even though you want to take the extra steps that it does take to make it accessible for everyone.

And then once you’ve got a process that works for you, consider sharing what you’re doing at a professional conference. Like you could propose it at the Online Learning Consortium’s OLCInnovate conference in the spring, it’s held every year. And it’s a great place to share ideas for doing multimedia video, and other interesting practices in our online teaching.

They have a lot of opportunity to share things that you’re doing to enhance accessibility for all learners as well. So, if you’re branching out in these areas, and you’re really working on that, that’s something you could share that the Innovate conference also. And then, of course, OLC has a fall conference called OLC Accelerate, which is another great place to propose your sharing and share your strategies with other people.

Thanks for being here today to listen on the seven tips for helping you include videos and multimedia in the online classroom. We have a few other episodes on video and multimedia, which are linked right here in the transcript. So, take a look at the transcript notes. And you’ll find links out to those other episodes just in case you want a deep dive on video creation or multimedia assets further.

#47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online#24: How to Make Videos for Your Online Class

Until then, thanks for being here. And I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#121: Three Interactive Platforms to Consider Using in the Online Classroom

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Want to increase engagement in the classroom, but not sure where to start? In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares three interactive platforms to add a creative approach to student engagement. Learn what platforms work best for asynchronous, synchronous and hybrid classes.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m Bethanie Hansen your host, and I’m here to talk with you today about three interactive platforms to try in your online teaching. With so many things to try out there, it can be very difficult to decide what will work for you and for your students when you’re teaching online.

Today, we’re going to look at three interactive platforms. The first one is called Knovio: K-N-O-V-I-O; you can learn more about it at Knovio.com. And I’ll talk about it here today. The second one is called Vimeo: V-I-M-E-O and, of course, you can look this one up at vimeo.com. It’s a little bit like a YouTube-style hosting platform, but with some additional interesting features. And thirdly, we’ll look at Mentimeter M-E-N-T-I-M-E-T-E-R, at mentimeter.com. This one can have interactive slide presentations, and quizzing features, and all kinds of different questions and polling that you can include.

Each one has its own place in your online teaching. And some of these work well asynchronously. Some work well synchronously, but still online. And some can work for both. So, we’ll check out all three of these interesting interactive platforms and give you some ideas of things you might want to try in your next online class.

What to Know about Knovio

First, if you’re interested in helping your students create their own interactive presentations, where they can video record themselves next to some slides that they are also presenting, a great platform would be Knovio. Knovio.com has a lot of different options. There is the educator pricing and the educator platform. But more specifically, today I want to talk about the student version of this product. So, this is an opportunity for your students to create presentations that they are featured in with video and slides side by side.

It’s easy to use; they can narrate their slides, or they can record the videos side by side, or they can just do audio with no video and those slides. They can share it with their friends, they can share it with the entire class, send it to their professor for grading. It can be featured on a web page in your online classroom as part of a showcase when you have students submit projects. It’s mobile-friendly and, of course, there’s a free version. So, students can make a seven-minute video, and it’s free. Or for a longer video or more of them, they can have a very inexpensive student plan, I think it’s something like $5 per month.

So, there’s student pricing. And there’s the opportunity for students to save these and share them. And of course, they can continue to edit them and work together with others in a group if they’d like to do that. So, the Student Edition gives all the Knovio Pro features, but at an inexpensive price your students would be able to invest in, it gives the five hours of storage for students, unlimited video presentation lengths, up to like a five-hour presentation. And also high-definition video exports. So, they can either export the entire video, or they can share just through a link.

When students use Knovio to make presentations, they’re much more interactive than just a simple PowerPoint alone. They can have that live video next to it and it’s really engaging, just like being in a presentation in a live classroom. So, it brings that personal touch into the presentation.

They can use different languages and have it translated. Or you can have it narrated and just in English, whatever works for your students. So, if you’re doing another language, like teaching a Spanish class, it might be interesting to have the translation there. And you can also post these online, upload them to your favorite hosting service.

You can also check out the statistics to see whether they’ve been viewed, how many times they’ve been viewed. And you can also give it a bookmark so that you can move from slide to slide and each one will play the narration and then just stop there so you can skip around. So, there are a lot of options available in the student version here and its very user friendly.

I myself first was exposed to Knovio years ago through a colleague at American Public University. After I first tried it out at the time, I was also teaching at the local community college, so I brought it into my face-to-face music appreciation class. And I had students make their presentations using Knovio. And then in the web version of our class where we had our grading, and we could also store things, I had students upload their Knovios in there so there was sort of this showcase. And between class sessions, students could look at all the different presentations and share their comments and study more than they would get in the live class.

So, there are a lot of options here with Knovio. It works great in live classes, hybrid classes, and asynchronous classes. Now, what if you want to use Knovio as the faculty member? There is also this ability to put quizzing in between your narrated sections. So, you can have yourself on video talking through parts of a lecture, and you can have a slide up there with the different pieces of information, then you can have your students pause and take the quiz questions in between and then move on to the next slide. So, if you like it enough to try the teacher version, you’ll find there are a lot more features, especially if you try the pro version. And it might be worth keeping and using over and over.

And, of course, you can save your work and use it in the next session of that class. So, once you’ve invested the time to build this big presentation and put your video up there, you can use it repeatedly. So that’s one option to you, Knovio. It’s an interactive slide presentation type of application. And we’ll go on to the second option for you today, which is Vimeo.

Considerations for Using Vimeo

Now, what is Vimeo you might be wondering? Vimeo is an all-in-one video hosting platform. So, you can make, manage and share your videos, you can have live virtual events that you engage your audience with. And you can also send out these videos, keep track of the statistics and know who’s watching them. You can password protect them, you can have them listed or unlisted, you can put them as part of a showcase, you can embed them anywhere.

There are a lot of ways to use Vimeo. And there are a lot more personal controls that you can employ in your Vimeo hosting. One of the reasons people use Vimeo now, of course, is for all kinds of video marketing and video monetization. But, as an educator, you can see that there would be a lot of benefit to tracking the views of your videos and adding captions and different things.

You can use them to teach a lesson, you can also embed them in your LMS. So, if you compare this to YouTube, there’s just a little bit more in terms of control and features. I encourage you to take a look at Vimeo and see whether it might be something that you want to try out. There are various levels of plans, and it just might be something that your students connect well with.

Now, why would you want to try Vimeo instead of YouTube? That is an interesting question that really depends on the user. Some people use YouTube and like to use either private or unlisted videos. Unlisted is probably the best way to go, because then you can use those videos that you’ve created and you can do them without the whole web finding them. The problem with unlisted videos on YouTube is that the date that you created them, and the number of watches is public. And if you try Vimeo, you can hide a lot of that information, you can hide the branding, you can hide the statistics.

And you really can choose how much about the video other people can see. So, there’s a little more control there. And as I mentioned, you can embed it anywhere, link it anywhere and use it whenever you see fit. So, all kinds of great things can happen with your Vimeo videos. And, even though, there is a small cost associated with that, you might find that it’s helpful for interactive things, screen recording, and also editing videos in a professional way with very little learning required.

It’s user friendly, easy to learn. And you can also with the same link, if you decide you want to change out the video or or add an updated version, you can have the same link to the video but replace it with a newer version of your video without changing the URL or the address of that video. So, that’s a bonus of Vimeo, it preserves that address for you and allows you to use it over and over, even when you’ve subbed out to a new version of the video.

So, Vimeo is worth trying in your online education experience. It’s especially good for asynchronous learning where you’re building a class and putting lots of different videos in there that you have created. And it’s also good for hybrid situations if you’re teaching some live and some of the work they’re going to be doing at home. So, look at Vimeo and see if it’s a video solution you might want to try in your online teaching.

What is Mentimeter?

And lastly, today we’re talking about Mentimeter. Mentimeter is a fun way to interact with your students either synchronously or asynchronously. Mentimeter is a platform where you build presentations. You can build your entire presentation on this platform, you can prepare it to be interactive, you can use the online editor to add questions, polls, quizzes, slides, images, GIFs, and all kinds of exciting things. And you can make these really engaging presentations that your students will view.

Additionally, you could just use it for one or two slides to create a poll that you insert into your classroom. Now, your audience, your students, are going to use their smartphones to connect to the presentation and answer the questions. So, if you send it out for the engagement feature alone, you could just post the link or embed the Mentimeter presentation in your online class. You can send the link in your announcement, or you can put it in there as an actual piece of content. They can see their responses coming together as more and more students respond. So, when one student adds information, they’re going to see in real time, the interactive responses pop up there. And the more students come in throughout the week and participate asynchronously in this engagement, the more those answers are going to change.

For example, if you have a word cloud on one slide, and Sarah goes in on Monday and adds her answers, and Johnny goes in on Tuesday, the existing parts of the answer will be there. And the next student’s answers will be added to it. And it’ll become more and more rich, engaging and interesting for everyone, as the week goes on. Then at the end of the week, you can close out the Mentimeter and it’ll save all those responses. So, you could send that out as a follow up that everyone can view and see the collective contributions to that presentation.

So, it’s a very interesting way to get people to interact, whether it’s synchronously or asynchronously throughout the week. And then you can just close that off and have everybody take a look together and have a fun closing product. So that’s mentimeter.com. And I really believe that it works well for both synchronous and asynchronous audiences. And I encourage you to try it for the fun interactivity that it might provide to your online students.

So, today, we’ve just looked at three different media applications. The first one was Knovio. A great way for students to create presentations that have live-looking video next to their slide presentation narrated or faculty members can also do that, and even embed quizzing in the middle.

Secondly, we have Vimeo, which also allows you to add some interesting interactivity, including quizzing, if you have one of the paid versions of that plan. And then lastly, Mentimeter, which also provides a lot of different types of interactivity in a slide-based application that you can either share the link, you can use it on a smartphone or you can embed it in the classroom, and it can collect all kinds of responses. And you can use a creative approach to share this engagement with your students.

This coming week, I hope you’ll try at least one of these new and interesting ways to engage and find a way to liven up your online teaching and increase the engagement through an interesting media app. Best wishes to you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#118: Using Explainer Videos in Online Classes

This content first appeared on APUEdge.Com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Explainer videos are a great way to share information with students in a highly engaging way. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides insight into tools to create explainer videos, content options, video length, and more.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Explainer videos are becoming more and more common across the Internet and the world wide web. And we want to talk about these today and figure out how to do them. This is an interesting thing to explore.

First of all, what is an explainer video? And what is it not? And then, how do you do it? The first thing about what an explainer video is, is that this is a tool often used in marketing areas. In fact, it’s a very common thing in marketing one’s products. You might be wondering, “how does that connect to online education?”

Well, of course it connects. Your students are watching YouTube, they’re on the internet all the time, and they’ve seen good explainer videos. So, they’re familiar with this mode of conveying information. And an explainer video is just a short, concise way of describing something, telling what it is, what it isn’t, and then how to do it or why it’s important.

Options to Make Explainer Videos

There are a lot of resources available to you on the internet about how to make them. And there are many different platforms you can use, such as TechSmith’s tools. They have Camtasia. They also have the Snagit application. You could try either one of those. Canva also has a great way to make explainer videos. And then again, you could make a standard video of yourself talking at the camera, with or without any kind of animation. It could be you talking for just a few minutes. And it can be that simple.

Or you could take it to the far end of animated complexity, where you have animated screens and animated explainer components and different words popping in and out and a lot of things moving at once.

It’s up to you how simple or complex an explainer video will be. I want to talk a little bit more about why explainer videos can be so effective. And it’s this idea that great communicators are also great explainers.

Explainer Videos Help You Communicate Well with Students

As online educators, we all want to be great communicators. We want to speak effectively to our students, teach them effectively, and guide them to use this subject matter in their lives and in their careers. There’s an article in “Harvard Business Review” by John Bell Dhoni in 2009, called “Great Communicators are Great Explainers.” And in this article, he simplifies the process as I’ve already explained it, three ways to be an effective explainer. And I’m proposing here that these are the three main parts of an explainer video.

Step 1: Define “What it Is”

The first one is defining what it is. So, the purpose of your explanation is to describe an issue, an initiative, a concept, a problem, something that students need to know about or understand in your online class. For example, if you’re pushing for cost reductions, explain why they are necessary and what they will entail. That’s the example used in the “Harvard Business Review” article.

You could also be telling about a concept, such as in the music appreciation class, an explainer video might easily teach the term tempo and discuss that it is the speed of the music, how fast or slow it is, comparatively, tempos can change, etc. So, we’re going to define what it is in that first part of the explainer video.

Step 2: Define “What it is Not”

The second part, as we learned in the “Harvard Business Review” article, is to define what it is not. And this is where you go into that advanced level of thinking. Never assume anyone understands exactly what you mean by what you have said. Define exclusions. And, in the example from the article I referenced here, it is returning to our cost reduction issue. If you’re asking for reductions in cost, not people, be explicit. Otherwise, employees will assume they’re being terminated. Don’t leave any room for assumptions. It’s just not true for potential layoffs, but for any business issue, or teaching issue, for that matter.

So, if I were doing that same example from the music appreciation class of what tempo is and what it isn’t, I would then say tempo is not the steady beat, the pulse alone. It’s not the color of the sound. It’s not the texture. It’s not going to be that single melody that’s popping out to us, that we can hear on top of everything. There are a lot of things I could say tempo is not. And then in defining what it is, I can circle back to that if needed.

Step 3: Define What to Do or the “Call to Action”

And lastly, we need to define what we want people to do. This is the opportunity to give them a call to action. And in an online class, it is the opportunity to engage them in what they’re going to do, to demonstrate their learning or practice their learning. Establishing those expectations with others is absolutely critical, otherwise, your video is useless.

Now, in that example from the “HBR” article, cost reduction means employees will have to do more with less. And you’re going to explain what that will include in clear and precise terms. You can also use the expectations step as a challenge for people to think and do something different. Your explanation becomes more broadly significant when you do that.

And another tip is to not overdo the details, especially in what, it is what it isn’t, and what you want them to do all three of these components. Really, hitting all three points should not take a very long time, we want to do it clearly, concisely and in a way that grabs our listeners’ attention.

You will have many students who don’t want to sit for more than a five-minute video, so I would suggest that that’s your cap for any explainer video. Keep them small, brief, concrete and under five minutes.

In defining what you want people to do, you could give them a task to take outside of the classroom and try out their learning. You could also introduce an assignment and discuss what you want them to do on that; you could also use this explainer video approach to define the assignment itself. And define what it is not, what it should not look like, and what students should not do. And also define what they should do to submit it at the end.

So, initially, you might give them an overview of the assignment, maybe it’s an essay, maybe it’s a PowerPoint discussion that they’re going to put together. Whatever it is, you want to define it and give some clarity to that so you’re really guiding people. And then, of course, define what it isn’t. We’re going to describe what that would be.

And then, lastly, what you want them to do. You want them to attach it, submit it by a certain day, whatever that is. So, explainer videos can be used for a lot of things, and they can be very simple. You’re just telling what it is, what it isn’t, what you want them to do.

Now, as you look across the internet for different resources, I want to tell you to stop by the Canva site, canva.com. You’ll find a free explainer video maker. In fact, it’s very simple. You can put this together very quickly using their formula here. They walk you through a five-step outline of how to create an explainer video. And it starts with choosing a template, then customizing the video with stock images or recording yourself speaking or cropping the videos, whatever it might be. And third, you’re going to add text and captions. If you’ve written out what you’d like to say in advance, this part’s really easy. But you can also do it at this point in the creation. Fourth, you can add music voiceovers or animations. And lastly, download the video and share. When you download it from Canva website, you could then upload it into any LMS. And you could put it in your course announcements, and it’s pretty portable and very easy to do. So Canva is a great resource if you use.

If you use the TechSmith Camtasia product or the alternative, which is the Snagit–it takes pictures and screenshots, but Camtasia puts them together in like a longer video. So, you could use those things to grab videos, grab images, and then put them together in Canva. Or you could build the whole thing in TechSmith’s Camtasia platform. So, they have seven steps that they recommend.

And similar to the Canva site, they (TechSmith) suggest choosing a video style, which would either be a whiteboard, drawing a screencast video, or live action. They suggest then writing a script. So, you’re explaining something, focusing on your audience, solving a problem in some way through your explainer video and also telling them what they should do to get started at the end of the video.

And they actually suggest keeping your explainer videos one to two minutes in length, which is much shorter than the five minutes I recommended. So, you have a choice there, have a range of really short to moderate, and definitely be conscious of your student’s attention span.

Third, you’re going to record and edit the audio narration. Fourth, you will collect graphics, video and other assets and put those together for the video. And then, lastly, you’re going to edit and arrange the media. If you want to, you can of course do the bonus round, which is adding music, and then you’re ready to go. You can publish, share, or just share out from this area. You can download as a local file. You can upload it to screencast.com, YouTube, Google Drive or other places. So both of these are really great ways to share out an explainer video. And you have, of course, your three components that make a good explainer video. And, lastly, your call to action where you ask students to engage with you in some way afterwards or engage with the content.

You can share it with your students and track the views through some of these different platforms. For example, screencast.com and YouTube, you might be able to see how many views you’ve got. And then, of course, you also can take a look at what you’re doing with the students to really engage them over the course of your instruction through this method.

So, they’re going to retain what you’re teaching because they’re listening, they’re reading they’re watching. And you’ve covered also some of your accessibility areas by having a transcript on the screen or captions on the screen. By having visual and auditory components, you’ve got a lot of pieces that are going to reach a lot of learners. And it’s going to be a really high-level piece that you can put in your classroom.

Now, as I share the explainer video concept with you, I don’t recommend this everywhere throughout your class. I recommend this for some specific ideas that you think are most important, or some key assignments that you find students really struggle with. As you put those things together, you’re going to have a solid piece that you can use from course to course and your students are going to get more engaged and more information from you.

And then, of course, you can ask them for their feedback. Was it helpful? Did they like it? Would they recommend any changes? And you can always modify and improve your videos as you go. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion of explainer videos, and I especially hope you’ll try it out in your online class. I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best switches this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#101: Preparing for Peak Performance in Online Teaching: Part 1

#101: Preparing for Peak Performance in Online Teaching: Part 1

This content first appeared at APUEdge.Com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenDepartment Chair, School of Arts, Humanities and Education

Teaching online can be a challenging experience, especially if you are new to the technology or much more experienced with face-to-face teaching. Even if you are experienced at teaching online, a few specific preparation methods before the class begins will promote student success and renewed teacher satisfaction throughout the course. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares tips to help you prepare to teach online before your next class begins, aiming for peak performance in your online teaching.

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Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. We all know that preparing to teach is a worthwhile practice. In fact, preparing has been compared to “sharpening the saw,” by Steven Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people.” Preparing to teach means to approach an upcoming class with a balanced plan for peak performance in your teaching, while also focusing on healthy wellbeing in your physical, social-emotional, mental, and spiritual self. By preserving your greatest asset—yourself—you can be at your best in your teaching and keep fresh to adapt as needed.

In today’s episode, we’ll take a look at part one of a two-part topic. This first part will take you through the practical preparations to teach an online class, including preparing the online classroom, anticipating students’ needs, scheduling your daily work, and focusing on results and outcomes.

Next week, come back for part two, when we’ll take a deeper look at the personal preparation it takes to really sharpen the saw. That will include healthy wellbeing through daily habits, like taking the time to care for your body, mind, spirit, and social and emotional areas.

Peak Performance in Your Online Teaching

Peak performance is a state in which you are able to perform at your best, when you’re feeling confident, wrapped up in the flow of engaged work. You might compare this to the state at which an athlete is performing well with their game, or the way in which a musician is immersed in their performance, feeling the activity to be both natural and effortless, despite the work they are putting in. Where athletes and performers naturally seek out peak performance experiences, people can actually achieve this state in any professional field, including teaching.

You might be thinking that teaching is a learned skill or something that just anyone can do. And, both of these ideas could be true. To enjoy the work, do it well, and feel confident, educators can learn to teach at their own peak performance threshold. Peak performance is highly desirable because it can result in feelings of happiness, fulfillment, and consistent success. And when we teach at, or close to our own peak performance level, everything can seem easier, with greater impact.

The basic building blocks of peak performance include consistent practices in the way we manage time, resources and energy. There is a heavy focus on Covey’s 7th habit of “sharpening the saw” to first cultivate personal wellbeing and inner resources. And there is also a heavy focus on rituals and routines, consistently doing the work now, and focusing on excellence as a habit.

While building a personal foundation for wellbeing and inner resources comes first, the rituals, routines, and consistent work and focus on excellence include preparing well in the work itself. And, this is where our topic today comes in. We’re looking at the personal foundation part of peak performance in next week’s episode, which you’re not going to want to miss.

Preparing your Online Classroom

Preparing your online classroom can become a routine. There are basic steps you can take to ensure that everything is set up to guide your students effectively, and that you are ready for the first day of class.

First, prepare your syllabus, and post it in your online classroom where students can easily see it. If the class is built by someone else, read through the syllabus to refresh your ideas around the goals for the class, the weekly topics, and the assignments.

Next, review the assessments and assignments, including discussions and things students will submit to demonstrate their learning.

As you do this, consider the student perspective to decide whether the instructions and guidance are adequate to help students complete their work, or whether a little revision is needed. And include a scoring breakdown, a grading rubric, or some other clear indication of how students are evaluated, so that they are able to plan for success.

Once you have checked your syllabus, assessments, assignments, and discussions, review your content. If needed, add it to the online classroom. As you review the content and reading materials you’re providing students, again, try to take the student’s perspective. And as you do, ask whether these materials clearly prepare students to demonstrate mastery with their assignments and their assessments, and whether the content supports the course goals.

If some of those areas are not represented in the content, you might need to add a reading, a video, an instructor note or recorded lecture, or some other content to more fully support what students will learn and need to be able to do by the end of class.

And once you’ve reviewed these areas, consider your course announcements and introduction to you, as the instructor. I personally prefer images, videos, and intermittent written materials to guide students in the course announcements and in my introduction as well. Breaking up your content with images and other engagement can help students interact and remember what they are seeing.

As you finish preparing your online classroom, look for a student view. Many LMSs have the ability to transition to student view so that you, as the instructor, can see everything as your students will see it. As you do this, note anything that is not visible or needs adjustment, and make those adjustments.

As you walk through your own classroom preparation routine and write down your steps, you can add to your process and adjust over time to make preparations more efficient. Writing your routine can also give you the space to reflect around what works, what doesn’t, and where you can take the quality up a level. This routine and repetition loop is where you can focus on excellence and set yourself up for peak performance in your online teaching before you hit day one of the class.

Anticipating Students’ Needs

Before class begins, learn about your students, and try to anticipate their needs. You might be able to tell whether your students are in their first semester, whether they have taken classes before, or whether they are repeating the course after a previous attempt. If you cannot learn these details before class begins, you can set up your first week’s discussion to ask students more about their backgrounds, their experience with the subject matter, and their comfort level with online classes.

With information about your students’ needs individually and collectively, you’re in a good position to anticipate their needs throughout the course. For example, if you have students who are in their first semester and new to online learning, you might create a screencast to walk them through the classroom in the first week.

And, you might consider a topic organizer to help them think about their project, as well as a video-walkthrough of the technology they will need to complete their project. As you anticipate students’ needs, ask yourself, “What would help me most, if I was the student?” And considering the background, experience, and other information your students have shared, you’ll be in a good position to help your students make progress in their learning and handle the technologies of the online classroom. The more you learn about your students and prepare to help them with their needs and challenges, the more capacity you will have to teach well at peak performance.

Scheduling Your Daily Work

When preparing the online classroom and then teaching the class, scheduling your daily work will give you the consistency to build on for peak performance. After all, planning your time makes you the master of your work and your schedule. And you will be able to avoid feeling overwhelmed and crushed by what can seem like a heavy load when teaching online classes.

One idea to help you schedule your online classroom preparation work is to stop by the course each day to complete one readiness task per day, leading up to the first day of the class. Using the process of preparing a class I mentioned earlier, you might first review or prepare your syllabus.

And the next day, review assignments and discussions. And each day, tackle one task. Not only does this give you power over your time and help you to pace yourself, but it also helps your subconscious brain realize that you’re getting ready to teach the course, so that you’re making mental space to get into your peak performance teaching mode when class begins.

Just as you might break down your course preparation tasks into a routine that happens consistently each day, scheduling your daily work for teaching the class will help keep you moving on schedule and make your teaching time a regular, routine part of your day. As you create a habit, or a routine, around scheduling your daily work, you can build in learned optimism to think about each day as a fresh start, let go of temporary setbacks or challenges with students, and push forward to keep improving your experience.

Focusing on Results and Outcomes

Focusing on results and outcomes is an important part of continuous improvement and developing peak performance. If you were a ski racer, just imagine, you would be able to use the timing of your race and other factors to gauge whether your performance is at the level you want and whether you keep improving.

In a similar way, you can use data to help you see the results in your teaching. Planning ahead to think about this data before the class begins may help you further plan for your students’ needs, so that you get the information you really want at the end of class, to see your own teaching performance better.

One obvious source of data for results and outcomes is your students’ performance in formative discussions and in course assessments. You might be able to look at your students’ average course grades, assignment grades, the level of their engagement in discussions each week, and other statistics that give you data to interpret and from which you can take action.

Another source of data could be your own records of daily and weekly teaching work, the time you’re spending, and the reflections you have about where you’re confident and performing well, and where you feel like additional attention and growth might help you.

If you’re tense, anxious, and restless about different parts of your teaching, these feelings suggest that you’re not in the peak performance space. Focusing on specific areas will help you know what is influencing your experience, so that you can adjust the one or two areas where you have room to grow, and you can recognize where you are doing well.

Peak Performance Tips

As you prepare your online class and your habits for peak performance in your online teaching, keep in mind that you can find flow every day at work. Flow means that you get the most reward from what you’re doing, and you can even learn to love those parts that you have to do by focusing on excellence in your routine or your delivery of that aspect of your work. Finding flow in your work will always require skill and challenge, and it feels like the state of being completely focused, immersed in the activity, and absorbed in what you’re doing.

Preparation is one key to teaching well, and focusing on what you can control and do gives you the space to take action and prepare for an excellent class. As you prepare, consider which parts of your online teaching can become routines to be consistently used and improved over time, and consider where you might need some positive self-talk or conversations with other people to maintain motivation and mastery over your time.

And lastly, consider a performance routine. An athlete might have a lucky shirt to wear, or a chant before taking the field. A musician might have a particular warm-up method or visualization practice to get ready to step out on that stage. And an online educator might have a favorite mug or background music, an outfit that makes them feel like they are in the work zone, or an exercise habit before work that brings focus and energy. Whatever might work for you, the value of consistent routines can pave the way for an excellent online teaching experience.

Thank you for joining us today to talk about peak performance in your online teaching by preparing the classroom, anticipating your students’ needs, scheduling your daily work, and focusing on results and outcomes. When we start a course having thought through these areas and thinking about the goals to be achieved at the end, and we aim for peak performance. We can serve our students much better and maintain a high level of teaching quality throughout our time with them. If you’ve heard something valuable today, please share this episode with a friend.

And, of course, I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week and invite you to come back next week for part two on this topic.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

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